The Wild Storm: Michael Cray #6 – Bryan Hill, Writer; N. Steven Harris, Penciller; Dexter Vines, Inker; Dearbhla Kelly, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: The Best Book You’re Not Reading
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Ray: Michael Cray, the most unexpected hit out of DC’s lineup in a while (besides maybe The Jetsons), this spinoff of the main Wild Storm book eclipses its parent title in every way and feels more like a unique take on Earth-3/The Crime Syndicate by the issue. Told in two-issue segments with Cray facing off against a twisted, evil version of a DC hero, this issue concludes the assassin’s battle against Aquaman – easily his most twisted enemy yet, but maybe not for long. As the issue kicks off, Cray’s been set up to die in a rowboat surrounded by vicious sharks, but he manages to escape and pursue Arthur Curry into his tower. Curry is a fearsome, visually imposing figure who is the most physically powerful villain yet, but also the most twisted. The product of dark science and a cult that worships him as a God, he’s created his own island kingdom to engage in his sadistic tastes. By the time he makes it into the inner sanctum, the issue feels like a horror movie.
The elephant in the room, of course, is whatever the strange alien thing in Cray’s brain is. We find out a little more this issue, as he starts to break from his handler and follow his own agenda, but it’s still a pretty big mystery. The bigger lurking threat, though, bigger than the soon-dispatched Aquaman, is a mysterious man hiding in the shadows in London, performing a twisted Tarot ritual with a hapless, tied-up man who wants no part of the torture he’s enduring. The name of this man? Dr. John Constantine, here reinvented as a sadistic serial killer and man scientist, described by the writer as part Tesla, part Lecter. With Hill’s horrific villains and the art team’s dark, moody art and top-notch action set pieces, this is quickly evolving into one of DC’s best books and easily the best thing to come out of the Wildstorm line since Steve Orlando reinvented Midnighter. Here’s hoping trades help sales pick up and we get to see Cray cut his way through the whole DCU.
Corrina: Given it’s a spinoff of a series (The Wild Storm) that has had a turgid 12 issues now, Michael Cray is likely not on anyone’s radar.
it should be.
Because, as of this writing, it’s up there as the same quality of the best book in the regular DCU, Priest’s Deathstroke. I can understand why people have avoided it. The Wildstorm characters are obscure. I had never heard of Michael Cray before issue #1 dropped into my review files. And the concept–an anti-hero hunting down evil versions of the Justice League–is not one that immediately excited me.
And, yet, here it is, and it’s brilliant. Why? One, because the main character is drawn with such depth, a violent man who wants limits on his violence, though he knows his choices veer toward evil. He’s also dealing with an evil within, and we see the most vivid manifestation of that this issue. Will the man who’s been combatting evil now have to be hunted down in turn? It’s possible, especially given how his government handlers are beginning to fear him.
Adding to the quality of this series are the reimaginations of the Justice League. The stories have taken the worst traits of our heroes and magnified them, so their villainy seems natural. Aquaman is an otherworldly being who needs worship, an evil version of the kings from The Atlantis Chronicles. Oliver Queen was the hunter still trapped in his mind by his time on the Island.
And Constantine? It doesn’t take much to push Constantine over the line to become truly evil, and this version seems to have leveled up by having more focus and order in his life. (Truly, a focused Constantine is a terrifying idea.)
If you’re not buying this now, you need to buy it in trade. You’ll be ahead of the curve when this creative team breaks out on a bigger DC or Marvel or Image book, just like Ed Brubaker moved from his Wildstorm stories, Point Break and Sleeper, and suddenly was the greatest thing ever on Captain America.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
Disclaimer: DC received this comic for review purposes.